Plant

Common Valerian

Common Valerian grows in moist soils, along stream banks, in wet meadows, fens, and roadside ditches. It can also grow in dryer conditions, and will tolerate some shade.

History

Common Valerian was brought to North America as a garden and medicinal plant. It is still cultivated for these purposes, but often manages to escape into natural landscapes. Common Valerian root has been historically used to treat many ailments, including: sleep disorders, anxiety, joint pain, etc.

Identification

Here are some key features that may help to positively identify Common Valerian:

  • Grows to 1.5 – 5ft tall
  • Leaves are compound and pinnately divided; leaflets are long with serrated edges, hairy underneath, with 5-25 leaflets per leaf
  • Stems are thick, fleshy, and ridged
  • Flowers are white or pale pink, forming in tight clusters at the top of the plant in 2-5 umbrella-shaped umbels, fragrant – very sweet smelling
  • Blooms June – August
  • Fruit are lance-shaped, small (0.1 inch), and contain many powdery seeds
  • Roots are fibrous; small, white, fleshy rhizomes have a pungent odour
  • Common Valerian spread vigorously by self-seeding and aerial stolons
  • Look-alikes include: bulbous water hemlock (native), woodland angelica (invasive)
Image gallery
Common Valerian inflorescence. Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common Valerian inflorescence. Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common Valerian leaf . Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common Valerian leaf . Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common Valerian leaf attachment. Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common Valerian leaf attachment. Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common Valerian stem. Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common Valerian stem. Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common Valerian stems and leaves. Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common Valerian stems and leaves. Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common valerian infestation. Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common valerian infestation. Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common valerian seed head. Photo by Green Thumb Photography.
Common valerian seed head. Photo by Green Thumb Photography.